Snowsports Industries America (SIA) spent some time politicking on Capitol Hill this summer. On June 11, during the American Recreation Coalition’s Great Outdoors Week, SIA teamed up with the National Ski Areas Association, The National Ski Patrol, and the United States Ski and Snowboard Association to get to know Capitol Hill staffers a little better. During the duration of the Great Outdoors Week, many organizations come to Washington D.C. to discuss topics ranging from natural resources to import/export issues. “It’s a week to bring focus to various issues related to outdoor activities,” says Ali Zacaroli, manager of public relations for the SIA. “All these topics touch on sporting goods in some way.
“The main goal of this event is to provide an opportunity for various snowsports organizations to keep in touch with Capitol Hill.” Though the event does have a very political undercurrent, Zacaroli says it’s meant to be lighthearted. “It’s a fun event for the staff on Capitol Hill to attend and we can touch base with them,” she says. “It works both ways-not just legislatively. Many of them are skiers and snowboarders, and if legislation comes across their desk, they might be more inclined to take a closer look.”
Don’t be fooled, some lobbying takes place as well. Zacaroli says SIA members are welcome to attend, and meetings are set up with local representatives if the members have particular agendas they want to discuss. The SIA has been working closely on several topics affecting the snowsports industry: one is import/export issues that can relate directly to countries where a lot of snowsports products are manufactured. For example, last year the most-favored-nation status of China became a major concern because a lot of snow apparel is produced there. The push for change in the current tariff on importing snowboard boots into the U.S. was another crucial issue.
Another such topic is what’s known as The Backpack Tax. This initiative would add a five-percent tax to many outdoor-recreation items with the proceeds going to wildlife management programs. “We don’t like to go up to the Hill if we don’t have to,” Zacaroli adds. “The Capitol Hill staffers’ time is so limited, and they appreciated that we only go when we have a particular topic we want to address.”
The benefit? By setting aside one week out of the year to address a particular topic such as outdoor recreation, it becomes much easier to approach representatives and present arguments on particular issues. Zacaroli says, “I definitely think the spirit in which the people come together to communicate helps create an awareness of the snowsports industry as a whole. It shows we want to work together in good faith.”